BEIRUT: An Iraqi national who was kidnapped in Lebanon has been freed by military intelligence.
Badr Dafar Sayer was abducted and taken for ransom from an apartment in Jounieh, north of Beirut, four days ago, later being moved to the Sherwana area in Baalbek.
He was freed by his captors, who fled, leaving authorities unable to arrest them.
Army Command said: “A wanted man, M.J., accompanied by unidentified gunmen impersonating security forces, kidnapped the Iraqi Badr Dafar Sayer from an apartment in the city of Jounieh and demanded a large ransom from his family."
Lebanon has witnessed a surge in kidnapping for ransom amid economic stagnation and inflation woes. The circulation of photos showing kidnapping victims across social media has become a weekly occurrence.
Though Lebanese police data at the end of 2022 showed an improvement in security indicators compared to 2021, it also revealed a significant increase in kidnapping for ransom.
Information International, a private statistics institution in Lebanon, reported an annual increase of 12 to 50 in kidnapping for ransom crimes.
The study, based on reports issued by the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces, included “crimes reported to the security forces only and not the cases that were settled outside the framework of the official security services.”
A security source told Arab News that most kidnapping victims “are transferred to the Baalbek-Hermel region, and some are transferred through illegal crossings on the Lebanese-Syrian border.
“Sometimes security coordination takes place between the security services of the two countries to free a kidnapped person or coordinate with people who know the kidnappers, and can pressure them and lure them to Lebanese territory in special operations to arrest them and release the kidnapped person.”
The source added: “The gangs include Lebanese and Syrian citizens and those on the Lebanese wanted list. They are professional in extortion, armed violence and defiance of the authorities.”
Since 2019, Lebanon has undergone a severe economic collapse, which the World Bank has ranked among the worst in the world.
The security source added: “The chaos, especially in the areas controlled by Hezbollah in the eastern Bekaa region and illegal crossings, encouraged the rise of armed gangs in many regions and across the border.
“These gangs are active in human trafficking and smuggling, and kidnapping well-to-do men, women and children in order to collect ransoms.”
Lebanon’s penal code punishes perpetrators of kidnapping for ransom with life with hard labor.
During the past two weeks, Lebanon repatriated about 50 Syrians who had entered the country illegally.
A judicial source estimated the percentage of Syrians in Lebanese prisons at “about 40 percent of the total prison population, most of them perpetrators of kidnapping, theft, murder, drug use and smuggling, and human trafficking.”
Meanwhile, the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces arrested a husband and wife in Beirut who operated as major drug dealers.
The husband, born in 1986, and his wife, born in 1992, worked out of their home on Rafik Hariri International Airport Road, selling large quantities of narcotics.